I am so excited to have my friend, Alexis from chemistrycachet, here guest posting today. A few months ago I found her on Instagram and loved everything she posted. She is the chemist I always wished I could be. I love a good science experiment, changing the colors of things, making bubbling eruptions with my kids, seeing how different chemicals interact with each other, knowing the why behind the experiments, etc. This has been true since I was a little girl. My poor parents had to put up with a lot of experiments and messes from me when I was growing up. Thankfully they were very gracious and didn’t seem to mind any of it. With all of my experimenting and finding joy in all of it, I still didn’t “get” the science behind it. That didn’t seem, and still doesn’t, to stop me from enjoying what science has to offer. Now I experiment in my kitchen several days a week making recipes. 🙂 I took science classes in high school and barely scraped by and avoided them like the plague in college. My mind just simply doesn’t work the way a scientist brain does and I’ve learned that’s ok. I can still love it all and lean on people like Alexis to fill in the blanks that I can’t. We all need each other. 🙂
In the fall, I was making cupcakes for my daughters birthdays and one of them wanted pink frosting. One of her friends can’t have food dye so I wanted to figure out a natural way to make pink frosting without food dye. After all, I make allergy friendly foods all the time, I should be able to feed a child that doesn’t eat food dyes as well. I knew that beetroot powder made a beautiful pink, but I wasn’t so sure I wanted the flavor of beets in the frosting. Truth is, I don’t think frosting with beetroot powder tastes like beets, I just wanted to experiment. I made my first pink frosting out of dehydrated strawberries. Once they were dehydrated and crisp, I ground them in my coffee grinder until they became a powder. I added the strawberry powder to my white frosting until I got my desired pink color. My oldest daughter loved the natural pink and said it was a great light strawberry flavor.
After the party, I was talking to a client of mine that has become a friend. We were talking about the pink frosting and how I would love to make other dye free colors so we brainstormed some other colors. She has the science brain that I don’t, so she told me that if you add baking soda to any purple berry that the color would turn blue. The wheels in my brain started turning and turning. My excitement grew and I wanted to start experimenting again. Last month, I was drying blueberries in my dehydrator for a snack and forgot them overnight. When I woke up in the morning, the blueberries were dry and crispy. Not good for snacks, but the perfect time to experiment. 🙂 Again, I ground them into dust in my coffee grinder and got out four small bowls. I put a small amount of white frosting in two of them and mixed one with just blueberry powder. The next one I mixed with blueberry powder and a pinch of baking soda. These were fun colors, but not very vibrant. I did end up with a purple from the straight blueberry powder and a blueish grey color from the blueberry powder mixed with baking soda. These didn’t satisfy my expectation of vibrant natural food dye. In my next two bowls, I started with blueberry powder in each of them and then mixed a bit of water into them to make a watery paste. This made the color very deep and vibrant, just what I was looking for. I took one of these bowls and put a pinch of baking powder in it and voila, it turned a deep midnight blue. Now we’re talking! I added white frosting to each of these mixtures and got exactly what I was hoping for, a vibrant magenta/purple and a lovely blue color. Mission accomplished.
Since we are talking frosting today and natural food dyes, I thought I would throw in a fun deep green as well. A few years back, I made sun butter cookies and they turned a deep green color. I thought this was so strange, but didn’t think much deeper into it than that. Every time I made something after that with sunbutter and baking soda, I ended up with a dark green item. This happened with cookies, bars, muffins, etc. At some point, I read that there is a chemical reaction between sunflower seeds and baking soda that makes the green color. Below, I made a sunbutter frosting just for the fun of having green frosting and it tastes delicious too.
Alexis, will you tell us all a bit about you, your passions, and where your love for chemistry came from?
I have loved science since I was a little girl. My dad bought me a little chemistry set when I was 6 years old, and I was so fascinated by the experiments, chemicals, and equipment. Although I didn’t always want to be a chemist, I knew I would be a scientist someday. It changed every year, but by the time I graduated high school, I wanted to go back to the root of all sciences….chemistry.
The more experiences I have had as an adult, the more I realize how valuable chemistry is in every aspect of life. My husband was in the Marine Corps for many years and got very ill. I became a caretaker at a young age, and shortly after my husband became ill, he lost his entire colon. We spent years learning about nutrition, supplements, and any detail that can help him live a normal life. Chemistry has played a huge role in my cooking and baking for him. All my recipes are gluten-free dairy-free with natural sugars. Chemistry has also helped me with my own health. I have had rheumatoid arthritis since I was 10 years old, so I have experimented and tested the science behind so many supplements and health tips.
My favorite part of being a chemist is starting Chemistry Cachet and getting to share chemist solutions with others! Like making your own cleaning solutions, easy gardening tips, and healthy living!
When I am not working on the website or writing, I love spending time with my husband and English Bulldog 🙂
Please share with us all of the fun science behind the color changes in the frosting experiments.
The beauty of natural foods dyes is how science does all the work for you. All foods have natural pigments and chemicals responsible for the bright, vivid colors unique to each one. Not all color pigments are easily extracted or strong enough to use in things like frosting, but others are strong enough to transfer over, like your saw with the blueberry experiment.
Green plants and their seeds contain a chemical called chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is deep green pigment which gives plants all that beautiful dark green color. Sunflower seeds also contain that pigment. Chlorophyll is also known as chlorogenic acid. Since this is an acid, mixing it with a base like baking soda creates a neat chemical reaction leaving behind the green pigment!
Remember as kid a when you would mix vinegar and baking soda together? It would erupt and cause an awesome reaction! Well, vinegar is chemically known as acetic acid. An acid mixed with a base will always react. This is the same reason you get the reaction with the sunflower seeds and baking soda 🙂
What other fun natural food dyes could we make?
One of my favorite dyes to make is with red cabbage. Red cabbage has a pigment known as anthocyanin. It will actually change color depending on the acidity of something. This is why I love using it for a pH indicator too (you can read more details on getting the pigmentation out here) Once you get the pigmentation out you can use it for dyes. Since it does change coloring depending on the acidity, it turns blue when it’s mixed with a base, like baking soda. If you mix it with an acid, like vinegar, it will turn pink!
What else would you like to share with us, we’re all ears?
I would just love to say it is a joy to find others interested in science and healthy living. I love getting to share that enthusiasm with like minded people 🙂 If anyone enjoys chemistry tips and tricks for better living, feel free to follow me on social media or reach out. I love questions and enjoying getting to help others 🙂
You can find me everyday on snapchat (Username is alexisroch) sharing my baking tips, everyday eating, and experiments. And I am always on Instagram (username alexis.roch) sharing my favorite inspiration for healthy living!
Thank you Alexis for sharing your expertise and love of chemistry with us. I have really appreciated all of your posts and the wisdom you share. Please check out Chemistry Cachet to read more about Alexis, the chemistry behind food, natural ways to clean around your house, natural gardening tips, and more.
And now for the cupcake and frosting recipes!! 🙂 There are affiliate links below.
2 C Spectrum Shortening
3 C Powdered sugar (no corn starch)
1 t Vanilla
1/4 t Salt
2 T Rice milk
In a stand mixer, cream together the shortening and powdered sugar. Add the salt, vanilla, and rice milk, mixing well to combine. If the frosting is too thick, add milk 1 t at a time. If the frosting is too thin, add powdered sugar 1 T at a time until you reach your desired consistency. For frosting that you are wanting to pipe, you need the frosting to not be stiff and not thin. You will have a difficult time piping thick frosting and it will not come out smooth. If the frosting is too thin, it won’t stay in the place you want it to. Add whatever color you prefer from the video above to this frosting. Enjoy!
1/2 C Sunbutter
1/2 T Baking soda
2 T Olive Oil
Spray bottle with water
Preheat your oven to 350° Line a baking sheet with Parchment paper and set aside.
In a small bowl, mix together the sunbutter, baking soda, and olive oil. Be sure to mix them thoroughly together to ensure the baking soda is evenly distributed. Spread the sunbutter mixture as thinly as possible on the parchment paper. Bake at 350° for 17-20 minutes. The sunbutter should be golden brown when done, but not any darker or it will burn. Once the sunbutter has baked, immediately take the pan out of the oven and spray the whole mixture with water and let sit for 20 minutes. By 20 minutes you should see the mixture beginning to turn green. With a rubber spatula, stir the mixture and spray with water again. Do this 3x total and then let the mixture sit until it turn a dark green. Once it is dark green mix with the white frosting (recipe above). When you mix the sunbutter with the frosting, the color will be light at first, but will darken with time. If you want a light green, then don’t mix too much in, but enough to see the color. If you want dark green, mix most of the mixture and wait 24 hours to frost your cupcakes. By then, your frosting will be a nice deep green. Enjoy!
1 C Brown rice flour
1 C White rice flour
1/2 C Potato starch
1/2 C Tapioca starch
1 1/2 t Guar gum
1 t Salt
¾ t Cream of tartar
2 t Baking soda
2/3 C Coconut milk +1 1/2 t Lemon juice
1 C Spectrum shortening
1 1/2 C Coconut sugar
6 T Aquafaba (the water from a can of garbanzo beans/chickpeas)
1 1/2 t Vanilla
1/3 C Cocoa powder
In a bowl, mix the milk and lemon juice together and set aside. Preheat oven to 350°. Line your cupcake pan with paper liners and set aside.
In a stand mixer, cream shortening and sugar together. Add the rest of the liquid ingredients to the creamed shortening, including the milk. Next, add all of the dry ingredients together and mix well until combined. Using a large scoop, place one scoop of batter into each muffin tin prepared with paper liners. Makes 18 cupcakes. Bake at 350° for 18 minutes. When the cupcakes are done baking place them on a cooling rack. Enjoy!